Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday spoke out against the Israeli Arab demonstrations that were held across the country over the weekend after a police officer shot and killed a youth in Kafr Kana, slamming the protesters who he said were "calling for the destruction of Israel."
Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that anybody that broke the law during these demonstrations would be severely punished. "We will not tolerate disturbances and will act firmly against those who throw stones or firebombs, any blocking of traffic arteries, and demonstrations calling for our destruction," he said.
"We will not tolerate demonstrations in the heart of our cities in which the flags of Hamas and ISIS [the Islamic State, or ISIL] are waved, where there are calls for the redemption of Palestine with blood and fire, basically calling for the destruction of Israel," Netanyahu added. The time has to operate against these movements that want to destroy us."
Prior to the meeting, Finance Minister Yair Lapid urged the prime minister to temper the storm. "Members of the cabinet and members of the Knesset must focus on lowering the flames, not intensifying the flames," Lapid said. "We must live here together. The fact that this situation is being used for political gain is completely unacceptable and irresponsible."
Further demonstrations were planned across the country on Sunday, at Tel Aviv University, University of Haifa, Ben Gurion University, Hebrew University, and in the Israeli Arab towns of Kafr Qassem and Jadid Maker.
Police shot and killed the 22-year-old man from the northern Arab village of Kafr Kana in the early hours of Saturday morning, after he allegedly attacked a police car with a knife. CCTV footage taken at the scene, however, may contradict the officers’ statement that a warning shot was fired in the air before the man was fatally wounded.
A large protest was held in the Galilee village on Saturday to protest the shooting. At its climax, clashes erupted between stone throwers and the large police force stationed nearby. A general strike among Israeli Arabs was announced by The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, which called on Netanyahu to fire Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.
However, Netanyahu backed the officers and harshly criticized the protesters in Kafr Kana. “Israel is a state of law,” he said. “We won’t tolerate disturbances and riots. We will take action against stone throwers, those who block traffic arteries, and those who call for establishing a Palestinian state in place of the State of Israel. Whoever doesn’t respect Israeli law will be punished to the fullest extent. I will direct the interior minister to consider stripping the citizenship of those who call for the destruction of the State of Israel.”